Kids tend to be common-cold factories especially when they socialize with playmates in school or in play groups. A runny nose, sneezing, even an occasional cough are usually just symptoms of a rhinovirus infection of the upper respiratory tract, a.k.a. a cold. But cold symptoms often overlap with other conditions, including allergies, sinusitis, and the flu.
Knowing the symptoms of rhinovirus infections as well as symptoms for other similar conditions can help you know when to send the little one to bed with some chicken soup and when to take her to the Birmingham pediatric ear nose and throat doctors (ENT) for a check up and treatment.
Know Your Cold Symptoms
There are more than 100 different viruses that can cause what we know as the common cold. Healthy adults can expect to have about two to three colds per year. Kids under age 6 are even more susceptible to the sniffles.
Here are some of the most common symptoms of the common cold. Your child may have just one or two or all of them:
- Runny nose (clear mucous that may become thicker, yellow or green as the cold begins to clear)
- Stuffy nose
- Itchy, red or runny eyes
- Low-grade fever (under 100.3 F) that lasts fewer than 5 days
- Slight fatigue or malaise (feeling unwell) that lasts no more than a few days
Treating the Common Cold
The best course of treatment for kids with colds is bed rest and plenty of healthy liquids such as water, chicken or turkey soup, and green tea. Buckwheat honey has been shown to control coughs in children, teens and adults. However, you must never give honey to an infant younger than 1 year old because they are at an increased risk for botulism. Mentholated vapor rub can be used to decrease the severity of a cough and to help aid sleep. Zinc sulfate syrup or tablets formulated for children can be given during the first 24 hours of a cold to help reduce symptoms.
Never use or request antibiotics to treat a common cold; colds are caused by viruses, not bacteria, and therefore will not respond to antibiotics. Overuse of antibiotics can cause your child to become resistant to their effects, which could pose a health risk in the future.
Avoid over-the-counter cold medicines for children when possible. These tend to be ineffectual and can cause a range of unwanted side effects. Aspirin should never be given to babies, children or teens.
Not Just a Cold: It’s the Flu
The flu tends to have many of the same symptoms as a common cold. However, there are additional signs and symptoms that suggest that bed rest and cartoons won’t be enough to get Jr. chasing the dog again. It’s time for a trip to the Pediatric ENT Associates in Birmingham if your child has:
- Aching body or joints
- A high fever (above 100.4 F)
- Sudden onset of symptoms
Allergies are caused by a hypersensitive immune system that attacks substances that normally the body regards as harmless, such as foods, pollen, pet dander and dust. Signs that your child may have an allergy that needs to be diagnosed by an ENT specialist for children may include:
- Postnasal drip
- Some cold symptoms, but…
- …No fever
- …No aches or pains
Nonallergic rhinitis has the same presentation as a regular allergy. However, it can be triggered by different things, such as a change in the weather or even by a car’s exhaust fumes. Signs that your child may have nonallergic rhinitis (inflammation of the nose’s mucous membrane) and should be seen by a pediatric ENT include:
- Worse than usual postnasal drip
- Child does not respond to their usual allergy medication
Visit WebMD.com to learn more about nonallergic rhinitis symptoms.
Sinusitis (inflammation of the sinuses) often occurs at the same time as a cold or allergies. Signs that your child has sinusitis in addition to a cold or allergies include:
- Tenderness or pressured feeling around the eyes
- Tenderness or pressured feeling around the cheeks
- Tenderness or pressured feeling around the forehead
- Symptoms that persist for weeks
When to See a Pediatric ENT in Birmingham
If your child seems to have a cold but has any of the following signs or symptoms, it’s time for a trip to a pediatric ENT for evaluation and treatment:
- High fever (100.4 F or more)
- Rising fever
- Fever that lasts for more than two days
- Worsening symptoms
- Severe headache
- Severe cough
- Symptoms that don’t improve over a few days
- Ear pain
- Extreme fussiness
- Unusual sleepiness
- Loss of appetite
We’re Here for Colds, Allergies, Flus, and You
If you suspect your child has something other than just a common cold, don’t worry: The board-certified physicians at Pediatric ENT Associates are ready to help you with a consultation and evaluation. You can reach our offices in Birmingham, Alabama at 205-831-0101 or contact us online.
Next, read Back to School Health Tips for Your Child